Need for Speed: Underground 2

You have to give Electronic Arts some credit. It’s the largest game publisher in the world, and when it pumps out another of its major franchises, it pours on more polish than an obsessive/compulsive car detailer. And that’s what Underground 2 is in a nutshell – a whole lot of chrome, but not that much substance.

8Need For Speed Underground 2 rolls over extremely familiar ground: you start off with a stock sports car and, through a series of slightly different events, earn new cars, get special upgrades, and tweak your ride with the latest fully licensed bling. While everyone understands that spinners, neon lights, and hydraulics won’t improve your drive to the grocery store, it’s extremely important in NFSU2. Your reputation not only depends on your skill as a driver, but also on the appearance of your ride.

Graphically, this game is a dazzler. The locals have to be extremely proud of their sanitation system; this place is shinier than a particularly clean operating room. Effects are everywhere, with the requisite slow-motion camera work for particularly nasty crashes, long jumps, and other notable accomplishments. The lights are bright, the sounds are spot-on, and overall, Bay View (the Hollywood-like city where this takes place) makes Las Vegas look like Smallville, USA.

While driving around looking for various styles of races (which is the main meat of the single-player game) is fun, there’s a whole other online mode waiting to be tapped. The players here seem to be mostly the targeted audience, which means your online fun mileage will vary. The single-player game has so much to offer with so many unlockables, though, it’s not too much of an issue. A few novel racing modes, like ‘drag racing’ (where precise gear shifting will win the day) makes the game even more interesting.

00It’s a good thing the game is so entertaining. Take away the default music — it’s literally “default†at this point — the cliché story, and the seemingly endless parade of brain-dead adversaries and potential mates, and you’re left with a glitzy, well-crafted arcade racer. There’s plenty of depth, and just enough twists and turns not involving the streets you’re tarring. Just know that you should go in for the racing and the racing alone—the rest of the polish, smooth and even throughout, is “style†of some sort that masquerades as substance.

System Requirements: Pentium IV 1 Ghz, 256 MB RAM, 64 MB Video, Windows XP

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